Hour of the Wolf
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The delicate, dangerous line between genius and insanity is brilliantly plumbed in this haunting film from Ingmar Bergman that's "a dazzling flow of surrealism, expressionism and full-blooded Gothic horror" (The Observer). Haunted by demons past and present, artist Johan Borg (Max von Sydow) fights a losing battle to retain his sanity and maintain his artistic prowess. His wife Alma (Liv Ullmann), desperate to help him, finds herself starting to share his hallucinations. But as Johan's mind continues to unravel, Alma is forced to choose between her love and her life.
- Brand-new digital film transfer presented in the original aspect ratio (1.33:1)
- Original Swedish audio
- Commentary by Bergman biographer Marc Gervais
- "The Search for Sanity" featurette
- On-camera interviews with Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson
- Photo galleries: Bergman at work, Hour of the Wolf
- Original theatrical trailer
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They become accustomed to living on the island. Johan goes around and does some sketches. Alma finds his diary under the bed and reads it. At one point Johan is on a rocky coast and a boy gets into a fight with him and Johan kills him and dumps him in the water. It's hard to tell if this is a dream or not. Bergman shows the episode but turns the sound off. It's like a silent movie within the rest of the movie. But it might have really happened - we got to this episode when Johan was confessing to Alma that the scratch/bruise he had wasn't from a snake like he had told her.
A neighbor, the man who owns the island comes and invites Johan and Alma to his house for a dinner party. The food might not be so great but he can promise good wine he says. They take him up on it. It's a surreal dinner. They are treated to a puppet show where Bergman apparently filmed a real actor and made it look like he was a marrionette. (Clever trick). The people at the party are obscurely threatening and it didn't look like Johan and Alma were having a swell time.
After that the movie becomes a mash-up of dreams and reality, making it almost impossible to explain what happened. It reminded me of Stindberg's A Dream Play actually.
I liked this movie despite the fact that it was one of the least accessible films I've ever seen. (Even for Ingmar this was out there.) But, it had a convincing air of menace, a great look and feel, and hey, it was definitely different.
If you're new to I.B. you might try Smiles of a Summer Night or Wild Strawberries first. If your hip to Bergman's middle period: The Silence, Persona, Passion of Anna, Shame - you'll likely dig this too.
In other stories Johan tells of when he was a boy and how his parents punishment was to lock him in a closet only before letting him know of the little man that lived in their that eats toes and describes as he climbed in terror from the sounds of the man. He tells of the old woman from the castle and how when she takes off her hat her face comes of with it (this we will see). Johan also confides to Alma of the time when he was fishing and the boy he killed in a rage. These conversations take place while both struggle to stay awake till the sun rises for fear of what will happen once the candles die out and the nightmares that await. At one point Johan keeps lighting a match in front of his face as he talks which is very eerie and effective.
The film and what I have described is about Johan losing his sanity as an artist trying to regain his greatness. We are guests to his nightmare and like Alma are confused of what is true and what are hallucinations. I would suggest to not try and make sense of the film but allow it to seep into the deeper areas of your mind. I found it somewhat confusing after viewing but the images and the eerie feeling it left me with stayed.
This is said to be Bergman's first horror film but I found The Seventh Seal - Criterion Collection and deaths pursuit to have elements of horror.
The Search for sanity featurette - On Camera interviews with Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson - Audio commentary by Bergman biographer Marc Gervais - Bergman at work and hour of the wolf photo galleries - Original theatrical trailer.
johann (max von sydow), and his wife alma (liv ulmann), retreat to an island with one another and try to live a serene, peaceful life while johann works on his art. to say the least, it doesn't exactly pan out.
slowly but surely, johann's demons pursue him and whether they actually 'exist' or not is neither here nor there as far as the message of the movie goes. the most crucial scene is when the puppet show takes place in the demons' castle, and mozart's "magic flute" is done by the birdman, papageno. the darkness and meaninglessness of the human condition is reflected in the lines of mozart's character:"eternal night, eternal night, when whilst thou flee? when will mine eye the daylight see?" while these lines are recited by the birdman after the puppet show by papageno, a slow close up is gotten on his intensely evil face, and the lines are delivered with reverence and an inflection of utter doom and hopelessness. the answer is what johann already knows all too well--never. the artist's (and, by extension, man as a whole) attempts to know reality, to understand the purpose of his life and the meaning of existence, will come to naught, and he will be particularly unfortunate since, unlike the rest of the human race, he alone realizes the shadow of ephemerality and incomprehensibility cast all over life. the beginning and the end of the movie are more or less rational, in that there is nothing left but for johann to lose his mind. johann and alma, despite their intense love for one another, are just as cut off and unknown to one another as all human beings, and her attempts to save him are futile.
this film is a masterpiece, and masterfully utilizes the surreal and the imaginative to display bergman's unpleasant truth.
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